Jeremiah 44-46: Seek Not Greatness
October 16, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Our section today has three “words” from God given to Jeremiah. The first, in chapter 44, is regarding the Judeans who had gone to live in Egypt. You will remember that Jeremiah had already warned them not to rely on Egypt, but instead to rely on God. But now that they are in Egypt, another word from God comes to them, through the lips of Jeremiah, to flee from the idolatry with which Egypt was infested. They are “making offerings to other gods” (44:8). And what they need to understand is that not only is this a sin against God, but thereby it is also wounding themselves. If someone cannot listen to the highest argument—that their sin dishonors the gospel—they might listen to a lower argument—that their sin hurts themselves. “Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves?” Jeremiah asks (44:7).
Their reply beggars belief. Having previously pretended to worship God (while also worshipping other idols), and having pretended to listen (while actually disobeying), they have now become brazen. “We will not listen to you” (44:16). When someone becomes set in sin after previously hiding that sin, there comes a moment when the sin reaps its foul fruit: open disavowal of the Bible and of allegiance to Christ. Their argument is simple, and simply fallacious: when they worshipped the false god, “the queen of heaven,” things were fine with them. What they do not realize is that while they did so under God’s warning, and his withheld judgment, God was being patient, and it was his blessing, which he has now turned to judgment, which they had brought down upon themselves by their idolatry—and which Jeremiah tells them will now get far worse. Essentially, they become apostates (44:26). And the last warning to them: a sign that Pharaoh will fall into the hand of his enemies as did Zedekiah (44:30). It is important, Christian, that we do not rely on political power but on God himself. A vain and idol-worshipping human power is no safety. Lean on God for help.
Then comes a little known, but stunning, word to Baruch (Jeremiah 45). Basically, Baruch has been complaining while he has been transcribing God’s word through Jeremiah into a book, the autograph to the text that we read today. Woe is me, he has been thinking, to live to see such times. But as Tolkien wisely commented: it is not for us to wish to live in different times, only to make the most of the times in which we live. “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not…” (45:5). Students of history will be interested to know that it was that phrase that convinced Spurgeon not to seek an Oxbridge degree, but instead to go straight into preaching. It is always better not to seek great things for yourself, but instead to seek first the kingdom of God.
And then in Jeremiah 46, there is a word from God to the nations. Egypt is first in the list, and she will be judged. “Terror on every side” 46:5). Next comes Babylon, but here (not by any means everywhere in the Bible), the message is that Babylon will be used by God to defeat Egypt (46:20, 25-26).
But finally Jeremiah turns to God’s people (46:27-28). “Do not fear,” (46:27). There shall be a “return” (46:27). Of the nations God will make a “full end,” but for his people he will not do so, while he will exercise just discipline (46:28).
This section has a verse that is worth memorizing if you do not know it already: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not” (KJV). And it has a warning too: listen to God’s Word.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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